Mental illnesses command the atmosphere like tornadoes, spinning everything around in circles until we are stuck sorting through the aftermath of a once healthy life. They tear through homes, through friendships, through careers; they do it relentlessly and without apology.
Mental illness hit me hard in college. I was failing classes. I had taken a leave from nursing school right before my senior year. I was in unbearable debt from medical bills. I was hanging onto my on-campus job by a thread. I pushed my friends and family away. My life was suspended in air, being mercilessly torn to shreds by depression, by anxiety, by self-harm. After weeks, months, years of struggling, it’s easy to feel like mental illness has left your life in shambles. Like it’ll never get better. Like it dictates your every move and you walk along like a puppet whose strings are attached to a force greater than yourself.
You’re not a puppet. You’re not a victim. You are brave and powerful and strong.
Most mornings I fight with myself to get out of bed. Not always because I’m tired, but because my depression weighs me down and I feel unable to begin a day that I already consider a write-off. Hopelessness. Lack of energy. Symptoms of depression. Sometimes I feel so powerless in the face of my mental illness, like my neurotransmitters rule me. I forget that both science and experience can back up the fact that my thoughts and behaviors are my own and I have more power over them than I may initially think. Symptoms are nothing but symptoms. Treatable. Conquerable.
I recently visited my parents and we watched The Wizard of Oz. My parents remind me of my worth and the gifts I give to the world. They love me unconditionally and they inspire me to keep fighting through the pain. Sometimes I cling to their love like a security blanket, a helping hand, a single string with the strength of a lifeline. Sometimes I need to grab onto it with all my might and hang on regardless of the weather, battered and bruised and full of scars, and before I know it, I made it through another “worst day.”
My parents help remind me that I am worthy, that I am powerful, that I am so much more than my struggles, and sometimes I believe it. I want to remind you that you’re worthy too. You’re powerful, too. You are so much more than your struggles.
Sometimes it feels like traumatic memories have the power. Sometimes it feels like mood swings have the power. Sometimes it feels like medications have the power. However, as contrary as it may feel, mental illnesses are not tornadoes. Mental illnesses are surmountable. It’s easy to forget, and sometimes you have to be tossed through gusts of wind and sort through the rubble left behind to rediscover your strength.
You may feel small in the face of your mental illness, but like Glinda the Good Witch says, “You’ve always had the power, my dear. You just had to learn it for yourself.”